Tag Archives: kids and social media

My kid’s obsessed with Instagram

My oldest son, Jacob, has only been a teenager for a few weeks, yet we’re already arguing about his use of technology.

You may recall a few months ago I posted about him begging me for a smart phone and a Facebook page. My feeling– backed up by Wilson- is that I don’t want to incur the extra cost of a smart phone and its maintenance, and I don’t want him having access to the internet whenever he feels like it. That can only lead to trouble.

I’m not naive enough to think these privileges aren’t going to happen in the near future, but I’d like to hold out as long as possible. Every day he’s learning and maturing and hopefully when I’m forced to give in, he will have that much more smarts to make the right decisions.

13 is a significant birthday and for Jews, becoming a bar mitzvah– which Jacob will do next month–  is a big deal. So his grandparents wanted to get him a special gift and suggested an iPad mini.

At first I balked, thinking it was too much. But then I realized that we would not spend the money on a tech luxury like that for him right now and he would probably love it.

It’s been life changing.

my kids obsessed with instagram

One the plus side, it’s made Jacob more independent and self-sufficient. He had more apps on that thing in 2 days than I’ve ever had, on all my devices combined. He has it set up so he gets the weather  (no more barging into my room to see the forecast every morning,) his favorite sports teams scores (no need for computer time instead of eating breakfast,) and his own camera.

He never cared much for a camera before but now he needs it to post on Instagram. Before I knew it, he was signed up and posting pix on Instagram almost hourly.

At first, I was concerned. I’m not on Instagram and didn’t know how to use it. I had banned him from Facebook and Google Plus but now, without even discussing it, he was right in the Insta-mix, gathering likes and friends like a magnet in a nail factory.

He spends hours every week making photo collages, scrolling through friends’ feeds and commenting on comments of pictures. I’m told his interest will wane after the novelty wears off, but he’s a social animal so I can see this becoming a powerful habit.

This is why I didn’t want him to have a smart phone. The lack of control and the complete abandon with which he jumped into the social media landscape makes me uncomfortable.

But then he was so happy to be part of the conversation, he told me he no longer needed a fancy phone. I realized that the iPad was the best short term compromise, because he has the social engagement and internet access he wants, but only at home (he doesn’t have 3G so can only use it with wifi) where its use can be monitored. He doesn’t take it to school or sports so the chances it gets damaged, lost, or stolen are slim.

kids obsessed with instagram

What I didn’t count on was the obsessive use. Unless we take it away, the kid is clutching that device from the moment he wakes up until it falls out of his grip when he’s overcome by sleep at night. In addition to Instagram, he’s streaming TV shows, playing games, and Googling most thoughts that enter his head.


Welcome to modern parenting: limiting screen time and helping kids understand the importance of electronic-free activities. Jacob is a great student who does his homework before play time, and a busy athlete with many practices and games. When with his gang of boys after school, they often play sports outside, but our recent freezing, snowy weather has encouraged more inside activities, and TV and video games are too tempting.

Last weekend our family drove into Manhattan for the day and the kids played on iPads during the 30 minute trip in. But on the way home, there was an uproar when we took them away.

“Look out the window! See the world! Listen to the radio! Let your mind wander!” I yelled from the front seat as Jacob rolled his eyes and grunted. He managed to get through the ride but asked for the iPad as soon as we got home. We refused.

It’s a battle we’ll be fighting for the rest of time.

So I had a problem– Jacob wanted a smart phone– that I thought I  solved when he got an iPad…but that created a new problem. He’s only 13, and my first of three kids to go through technology adjustments and teen angst.

I better buckle up.

What’s Appropriate for Teens on Facebook

Here’s a modern parenting issue I’d like to put out there for discussion.  My close friend is arguing with her daughter, Katie (not her real name) who is 15 years old, and a tall, thin, blond beauty.  She’s smart and sweet but still rather socially innocent.  She spends her weekend nights with a few girlfriends watching movies and socializing online, not going out to parties or group dates.

Recently Katie was goofing around with a girlfriend who took a series of very sexy photos of her in a bikini.  Now Katie has posted those pictures and used one as her Facebook profile. In one shot, she’s leaning up against a fence with her head tilted back smiling demurely at the camera while her long blond hair cascades down her back.

I can’t show you the photo because her mother is horrified.

Mother and daughter are close and share a lot but in this case, mom thinks the photo is inappropriate and advertising something Katie can’t deliver. She also believes that Katie is too immature to understand the power of that photo on the internet.

Katie thinks mom is being prudish and is enjoying all the attention the photo is attracting.  One of her arguments in favor of keeping the photo up was pointing out how many “Likes” she had on Facebook now.

Well duh!

What kid wouldn’t like that picture?! Girls say, “Good for you!” and boys say, “Bring it on!“ The only people who hate it are adults who have concern for her welfare.

My friend feels like she’s starring in her own After School Special.  Shockingly, Katie’s dad is ok with the photo because he believes the positive attention is building her self-esteem and worried if they demand she remove it, Katie will block her parents on all social media and they won’t be able to monitor her online activity.  Even if they punish her, kids will find a way.

It’s a good thing Wilson doesn’t have girls because he took one look at that photo and went ballistic. There’s no way any daughter of his would ever post that kind of photo online. Of course he doesn’t have a daughter, or know the first thing about the complexities of their fragile teenaged egos.  He is not familiar with heaving sobs into pillows at night or notebooks filled with hearts and boys’ names.

One mother recommended my friend show Katie the movie “Trust,” about a girl who is stalked by an online predator to educate her about the dangers of creating an online profile.  But I’d actually be more worried about the boys in her school than outside creeps.  What message is she sending with the photo?  What situations could it get her into for which she is not prepared? Or is this oversharing and exposure all part of the modern high school experience?

Please weigh in on the issue. Maybe some of you think this kind of photo is fine. Of course my friend could order Katie take down the photos, threaten punishment, lecture her. But she’s looking for a way to get Katie to want to take it down on her own, because she understands why it’s a bad idea and has the information to make better decisions in the future.  Any advice to get to that outcome is welcome!